Five days on, 27-yr-old's death remains a mystery

The University student died of unknown causes four days after collapsing at her friend’s house; police suspect foul play

Five days after the mysterious death of a 27-year-old PhD student at the University of Pune, questions surrounding the circumstances of her death are yet to be answered. Varsha Chandrabhan Lawande died on July 12, four days after she suddenly collapsed at her friend’s home in Sangvi. While the police have registered a case of accidental death, the exact cause of death is still unknown until the forensic test results come through.

University of Pune
The deceased, Varsha Chandrabhan Lawande was a third-year PhD student at the Chemistry department of the University of Pune. The police are waiting for forensic reports to reveal the cause of death. Pic\Mohan Patil

On July 8, Varsha, a PhD student at the Chemistry department, was at the laboratory till 4 pm, after which she went to visit her friend Nitya (name changed) at her Sangvi residence. “They first bought milk from a neighbourhood shop to make tea. However, soon after their tea, Varsha collapsed,” said Kishor Kodam, Varsha’s temporary PhD guide and local guardian.
He continued, “Nitya and the flat owner rushed Varsha to the nearby Makan Hospital, where doctors intimated that her situation was critical as her pulse rate was very low. The Sangvi Police had also visited the hospital and registered statements from Nitya and flat owner.”

Though there was some improvement in Varsha's health on the next day, she died four days later. Varsha and Nitya both hailed from Parbhani and had been fast friends since their school days. One year after Varsha joined the PhD programme at the University, Nitya followed her to the same department, and the two had started living together in a rented apartment.

However, a professor has hinted that relations were strained between them for the past five months. “Another PhD student, Gaurav (name changed) joined the department. In March this year, Nitya and Gaurav got married without taking permission from her family. Varsha was of the opinion that Nitya should intimate her parents before taking such a step, and since then they were not in touch. So exactly what happened at Nitya’s home is something which no one knows,” he said on the condition of anonymity.

Datta Lawande, Varsha’s brother, who runs coaching classes in Parbhani said, “She didn’t have any history of ailments, except for four months ago, when her haemoglobin had dropped below average levels.” “Varsha’s death is such a shock for my family. We just cannot believe that she is not with us any more.” The family has not registered a complaint with the police, said Datta. “We have no complaint against anyone, hence when police asked us whether we want to file any complaint we refused. The exact cause of her death is not yet known,” he added.

Though the family has made no suggestion of possible foul play, the police are considering the possibility of poison as the cause of death. Sangvi Police Station PI Saifan Mujavar said, “We have registered a case of accidental death and are waiting for the exact cause of death, which will help us in further investigations. There is a possibility that she had consumed some poisonous material, as there were similar symptoms when she was admitted to the hospital.”

Meanwhile, D D Dhavale, head of Chemistry department of UoP said, “It was a very unfortunate incident. As it took place outside the campus, my department or the university have no role in filing the police complaint. But the department’s faculty and students had done everything they could during her treatment.”

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